Friday, 2 September 2011

"A real donation": the Ordinal and the order of priesthood

If anyone is seeking evidence that Muriel Porter's thesis on Sydney-style evangelical Anglicanism may, after all, be onto something, read the critique offered by Anglicans Ablaze of ACNA's new ordinal and the suggested alternative. 

Anglicans Ablaze is somewhat hot under the collar at the nasty catholic bits in the ACNA ordinal - chalice and paten, chasuable, anointing.  Of these optional ceremonies in the ordinal, we are solemnly told:

These ceremonies and ornaments were tied to a number of Medieval Catholic beliefs and practices that had no basis in Scripture. They included the doctrines of transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, and sacerdotal character of the priesthood. They were examples of the tendency of a fallen humanity to ignore the teaching of God’s Word and to replace it with teaching of its own devising.

As a result, "The new Ordinal breaks with the classical Anglican Ordinal".  For Anglicans Ablaze, the catholic tradition within Anglicanism is simply illegitimate:

The reference to binding and loosing in the formula used at the imposition of hands in the ordination service for priests in the classical Anglican Ordinal is not understood to refer to the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic and post-Tridentian Roman Catholic notion of absolution, but to the priest/presbyter’s binding and loosing through the proclamation of God’s Word. This is the received interpretation of this reference in the classical Anglican Ordinal. In the nineteenth century the Tractarians and the Ritualists would reinterpret that formula in what they described as “a Catholic sense,” interpreting the Ordinal according to the teaching of pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic and post-Tridentian Roman Catholic tradition and not the Scriptures, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Homilies, and the writings of the English Reformers.

What this entirely ignores, of course, is the pre-Tractarian High Church tradition so ably portrayed by Nockles - a tradition grounded on Prayer Book and Articles, with a highly developed theology of ministerial priesthood, sacramental confession, and eucharistic sacrifice.  To write this tradition out of the history of Anglicanism is not only grossly inaccurate - it also ironically reflects the arguments of those Roman apologists who have, over the centuries, denied Anglicanism's claims to catholicity.

Equally ironic is Anglicans Ablaze proposal that a contemporary 'reformed' Anglican ordinal should mimic the notoriously Latitudinarian 1792 PECUSA revision of the Ordinal:

The addition of an alternative formula for use at the imposition of hands in the ordination service for priests in the 1792 Ordinal of the Protestant Episcopal Church was consistent with the reformed Anglican understanding of the priest/presbyter’s role.
Take thou authority to execute the Office of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed to thee by the Imposition of our hands. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Even the Church of Ireland, when it came to revising the Prayer Book post-disestablishment and in a cultural context which ensured staunch hostility to Tractarianism, baulked at such a change to the Ordinal.  Latitudinarian horror at the very idea that the Holy Spirit was active in the Church, bestowing the gift of the "order of priesthood" (see the rubric before the laying on of hands in the 1662 Ordering of Priests), and that the words of the Risen Christ addressed to the Apostles could likewise be spoken to those to be ordained priests, resulted in the PECUSA revision.

No, it won't do.  You cannot invoke 1662 over and against post-ordination ceremonies of anointing etc and at the same time reject a key aspect of the 1662 Ordinal.  Indeed, this is not just 1662 - the words "Receive the Holy Ghost ..." were also the form of ordination used in the 1552 Ordinal.  Perhaps the words of Hooker will suffice to indicate why the classical Anglican Ordinal confers the order of priesthood with such words:

A thinge much stumbled at in the manner of giving orders is our using those memorable wordes of our Lord and Savior Christ, 'Receive the holie Ghost'.  The holy Ghost they [the Puritans] saie wee cannot give, and therefore wee foolishlie bid men receive it ... he which giveth this power may saie without absurditie or follie 'Receive the holy Ghost', such power as the Spirit of Christ hath induced his Church withall, such power as neither prince nor potentate, kinge nor Caesar on earth can give ... Absurd it were to imagin our Savior did both to the eare and also to the verie eye express a real donation, and they at that time receive nothing ... Remove what these foolish wordes do implie, and what hath the ministrie of God besides wherein to glorie? (LEP V, 77.5-77.8).


Todd Granger said...

Well put.

But I would also argue that Muriel Porter has not a leg to stand on in caviling at Sydney innovations. Not to mention that her book is so full of suggestion, innuendo, and assumed motives as to be ludicrous.

I honor the dedication of such ejected Puritans as Richard Baxter, but I have no desire to see the catholicity of Anglicanism distorted either by latter-day Puritans or their (oddly) ecclesiastical bedfellows, liberals and revisionists.

The Hackney Hub said...

While the old High Churchmen did have a well-formed view of baptismal regeneration, they were varied in their approach to the Eucharist and the relation of sacrifice to it. Some where virutalists and held to a "higher" view of Eucharistic sacrifice (such as the Nonjurors), others were "lower" and held to a high receptionism, which only allows for the "feast upon a sacrifice,' view. likewise, Old High Churchmen did not believe in a sacerdotal priesthood like developed Roman doctrine. The historic succession of bishops was a transfer of apostolic authority, not sacerdotal powers. Likewise, some old High Churchmen believed in private, auricular confession as an aid to a troubled conscience but it was never necessary, and some High Churchmen abhorred it (such as Bishop Hobart). I refer you to my blog:, which is dedicated entirely to old High Churchmanship.

BC said...

Todd, Hackney Hub, many thanks for the comments.

Todd - totally agree re: Porter and Sydney.

Hackney Hub - while I agree that there was a diversity of expression amongst the older/native High Church tradition regarding eucharistic sacrifice, I think we can say that (in varying degrees) it did affirm the idea of a eucharistic sacrifice. On the ministerial priesthood and confession, Nockles is explicit: "An ingredient of the High Church doctrine of the authority of the priesthood was the power and efficacy of ministerial absolution ... High Churchmen defended their view of absolution by reference to the relevant offices in the Book of Common Prayer, emphasising the special provision in the Office for the Visitation of the Sick for private confession to a priest in cases of troubled conscience".

The Hackney Hub said...

We can certainly say that some High Churchmen had an advanced doctrine of the eucharistic sacrifice but not all. Many of the 18th and 19th century High churchmen held views of the Eucharist which were indistinguishable from Evangelical churchman at the same time. Read Nockle's chapter on Justification and the Sacraments in "The Oxford Movement in Context" for a full treatment of the subject. The Nonjurors and a few establishment High Churchmen held to a theory called virtualism which allowed for a commemorative sacrifice (found in Johnson's work, "The Unbloody Sacrifice") and most establishment High Churchmen held to receptionism, with Evangelicals, which allowed for a commemoration of a sacrifice (exemplified by Waterland's "A Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist").

BC said...

Hackney Hub, I was careful to say that the pre-Tractarian High Church tradition affirmed "the idea of a eucharistic sacrifice". Whether or not this was "advanced", what united the High Church tradition was confessing with the patristic tradition that the eucharist did have a sacrificial aspect. In light of the latter part of your comments, I think we agree on this.

Again, as per Nockles, I agree that many 18th Evangelicals had a 'high' sacramental theology. That this disappeared in the 19th century - in reaction to Tractarianism and influenced by an increasingly low church ecclesiology previously the preserve of Latitudinarians - is a matter of deep regret.